I am someone who enjoys doing a lot of different things, and yet I don’t always enjoy being busy. Sometimes when my schedule gets full, I feel almost as if I’ve lost a part of me.
Just like some people become codependent in relationships, I can be codependent with work. When it has my attention, everything else can easily fall to the wayside—my social life, my hobbies, you name it.
It’s all too easy to get caught up in a riptide of doing without ever evaluating what you’re sacrificing, why, and if it’s actually in your best interest.
Sometimes it is worth it, though you might need to make minor adjustments to enjoy the journey more. Other times you need to make major changes to experience the happiness you might think you’re chasing.
Here’s what I’ve been doing to ensure my busy-ness doesn’t compromise my happiness:
1. Assess just how busy you’re willing to be.
New research indicates that a key indicator of happiness is the distance between the hours you’d like to work and the hours you actually do. If you don’t want to work more than forty hours per week because you have a hobby you’re passionate about, but you’re working over three hours more than that, you will inevitably feel dissatisfied.
In some cases, this may be beyond your control. If you just can’t afford your mortgage unless you push yourself, that’s one thing. But sometimes you do have a choice; you just think it’s too difficult to make it. Downsizing or moving into a new place may seem like an unnecessary hassle, but it’s worth the uncomfortable transition if it allows you to do with your time as you’d like.
2. Consider whether your schedule conflicts with your priorities.
When you have internal or external conflict, it’s difficult to maintain your center and sense of joy. If fitness is a priority but you’re working sixty hours a week, leaving you little time to exercise, you will feel conflicted. Even if you want to keep working hard, you’ll feel frustrated that you’re not meeting your own needs.
If you absolutely can’t scale back your work to allow for regular exercise, consider rearranging things to make exercise easier. Wake up twenty minutes earlier for a quick job; something is better than nothing. Or see if you can take a class during your lunch break. Happiness is honoring you needs—all or most of them.
3. Be sure your goals align with your values.
Most people would prefer not to overwhelm their lives with work, but oftentimes we push ourselves because we have our eye on the prize, so to speak. There’s nothing wrong with having a dream and working toward it; but if you’re going to sacrifice much of your now for later, be sure you’re really headed where you want to go.
Does the future you envision align with your values in life? If your family is one of your top priorities, but achieving your goal might compromise that, all your busy-ness might lead you somewhere that doesn’t truly make you happy.
4. Find joy in the way things are.
Oftentimes when we’re busy, we’re fixated on the way things can be, should be, or will be on the other side of overexertion. It’s all too easy to get caught up in a race toward some fantasy tomorrow that inevitably will fall short of your expectations. Somedaydreams usually do because they’re more about avoiding the present than building the future.
Regardless of how things might be after your efforts pay off, life always takes place in the present. You never know what the future holds—whether or not you’ll still have good health or the people you love will still be around. The opportunity to enjoy those things is now. Find the time to appreciate and engage with them, even if only in small doses.